Media heads seek Commissioner’s urgent  attention on threats to court reporters
February 7, 2023

Media heads seek Commissioner’s urgent attention on threats to court reporters

The heads of two media entities in St Vincent and the Grenadines (SVG), and some reporters have written to the Commissioner of Police Commissioner, Colin John to draw attention to what they describe as “ the escalating issue of threats by members of the public against and aggression towards journalists covering the Serious Offences Court (SOC) and the Kingstown Magistrates Court (KMC).”

The letter dated January 30, was copied to the Minister of National Security, Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves; the Chief Magistrate,Rechanne Browne; Senior Magistrate, Rickie Burnett, as well as the Superintendent of Prisons, Timothy Hazlewood; the Association of Caribbean Media Workers and the media.

The letter is signed by Editor of Searchlight newspaper, Clare Keizer; journalist Kenton Chance, executive editor of iWitness News; as well as Hadyn Huggins who freelances for The Vincentian Newspaper, and Kemarlie Durrant, a Searchlight court reporter.

It said the problem has been an ongoing situation about which journalists have complained repeatedly over the years to police officers assigned to the court.
The letter made reference to an issue in July, 2018 in which a Layou resident was convicted of a charge related to a death threat she made to Searchlight reporter, Lyf Compton; and another in December 2018, in which Danroy Small, of Campden Park was fined for assaulting Kenton Chance.

Chance had been injured outside the Kingstown Magistrate Court when Small, who was in police custody, tossed a bag at him causing his camera to hit him in his face.

The hand delivered letter related specifically to an incident outside the Serious Offences Court on Wednesday, January 25, 2023 and involved Chance, Haydn Huggins, and Kemarlie Durrant. It related that the three reporters were in the yard of the court waiting to photograph Jermaine Andrews who was being remanded to prison. It said when the police exited the court building with Andrews, persons in the courtyard who apparently were friends of Andrews accosted the journalists, shouted insults at them and attempted to prevent them from photographing the prisoner.

“In fact, one of the men was so close to Mr Chance, that Sergeant Athnel Ash had to shout at him to stop assaulting the journalists…,” the letter stated in part. It pointed out that the aggression continued even after the police had left with Andrews and Chance had to appeal to a police constable who was standing by “to ask the most aggressive of the mob to desist from harassing the journalists”.

The letter also indicated that Keizer, on Friday, January 25, accompanied Durrant to the Criminal Investigations Department to make a report “after Bally Alexander, who was jailed for firearm and ammunition offences, repeatedly told Mr Durrant earlier that day that he (Alexander) would meet Mr Durrant ‘outside’ (presumably when he is released from prison), and Mr Durrant’s job would ‘cost you your life’ “.

It pointed out as well that journalism is an honest and legitimate profession that is a vital pillar of democracy and “ Media practitioners reasonably expect that they would be allowed to practise their craft without being assaulted and threatened…”.

Further, that “we would like you to use your good offices to address this situation urgently”.

The journalists also expressed their willingness to meet with Commissioner John to discuss the matter in greater detail.